Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Weather's to nice for blogging

The Safari went trying to catch a year bird up on arch year-listing rival Monika yesterday. There's been a Mandarin duck on a local wetland for a week or so and so having a day off we decided on a filthy twitch.
Try as we might we couldn't find it, three circuits we did to no avail but there was plenty there of interest and we spent a a few minutes over two hours there in the end.
Iffy pic but it shows the fish is a Perch
Now you see me
Now you don't - or won't in a tick
Before setting off we opened the moth trap and had a micro-fest
Diamond Back Moth
A deceased one of those nightmary ones
Second brood Shuttle Shaped Dart
Also in the trap was one for those clever iSpotters, a rather chunky diving beetle
Once we were back from the wetland we spent the rest of the day in a rather hot garden - loverrrrly!
Next door's Rowan tree was bedecked with berries at the weekend 
but has been severely ravaged already!
 There wasn't quite as much by way of invertebrates but enough to keep us and the camera interested
Honey Bee - to be honest we didn't recognise it as such and had to get help!
Time out for a wash n brush up
The most interesting sighting wasn't able to be photographed - a small dark butterfly flitting along the tree tops past our Silver Birch and lost in amongst the neighbour's Sycamore...too dark for a Holly Blue...White Letter Hairstreak...oooohhhh possibly???
Today we weren't able to get out much but did see a Sandwich Tern fishing catch a large silver fish (species???) and feed it to its youngster.
Two, possibly three, Bottlenose dolphins were reported to us and we put the news out but there was no way we could get away from the desk unfortunately. We had no blubber at all today.
Where to next? Hopefully we'll be able to get out on to Patch 2 for a bit longer tomorrow and have a proper look.
In the meantime let us know who's scoffed all the what in your outback.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Slow start then Boom!

The Safari only managed a short and late early look at Patch 2, nothing much doing on the dropping tide but a couple of Common Terns followed by a couple of Sandwich Terns all looking very dapper in the good morning light. 
A quick look round the gardens for the Big Butterfly Count only gave us a Large White and a Meadow Brown but we did re-find the Leaf Cutter Bees, well one of them at least - nectaring on Hardheads. still no chance of a pic though.
Another look at the sea at lunchtime when the tide was low was even worse than earlier, lots of disturbance on the beach which was hardly surprising with the lovely weather and some schools now finished for the summer. Plenty of first  flight Herring Gulls were sat on the water and a larger blob bobbing beyond them was the back of a Grey Seal's head.
That was the full compliment at work until we were walking past the pond to the car park where we slowed to a a toddle to watch a male Blackbird enjoying a real good old shake down now the water level has dropped enough for him to perch on the concrete ledge.
Tomorrow we have another day off so needed to put the moth trap out, once that was done we decided to water the Tomatoes even though the sun had,'t quite gone off them, the alternative was to wait until after tea - we didn't wait but went to the water butt and started to fill the watering can. That was when a large movement caught our eye by the kitchen window - a dragonfly - - AND it settled. Now we were in a dilemma, our camera and phone were indoors would we be able to get past it to grab them without either flushing it or it getting bored just hanging and upping and leaving.
As you can see, it stuck around! We had to balance precariously with one foot on a wobbly chair and the other on the edge of the woodpile to get anywhere near it. A Migrant Hawker, not a bad addition to the Base Camp year list. Chuffed!
Where to next? The mothy is out and it;s a warm muggy night, waht will be in the depths in the morning?
In the meantime let us know who had you balancing precariously in your outback.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

How to drown a moth

The Safari made the decision to put the moth trap out late last night. The forecast wasn't too bad and we sort of hoped we'd miss almost all the rain being on the coast.
The best laid plans don't always work though and when we went out to inspect it this morning the light was still on but the ground was very wet. We turned off the lamp relieved that that the electrics hadn't tripped out and peered into the trap. Needless to say there was quite a bit of water in the bottom and many of the egg boxes were pretty soggy but there were moths and a more of them than we've had on any other night this year.
We had a few unknown escapes and were so excited about what might be hidden further in that we took forgot to take any pics of some of the belters like the Yellow Shell and the stunning Broad Bordered Yellow Underwing.
Photos were reserved for the unknowns and one or two rarely seens
Acleris forsskaleana - several of these bonny micros
Brown House Moth
Lime Speck Pug - at last a pug we can just about identify
This pug was more troublesome but we've plumbed for Currant Pug
What's worse than finding a maggot in your Apple? Finding half a maggot! If you did find a maggot in your Apple it would be the larva of one of these Codling Moths
We had no idea what these were and had to go for professional help from the Lancashire Lepidopterans
The small dark one on the left required attention, about 25% smaller than the Codling Moth
Here it is enlarged and processed a bit - turns out to be a dark form of Bud Moth, Spilonota ocellana
That one, small as it was, was a veritable giant compared to this miniscule little chap - we could barely see it even with our glasses on! Bet it wasn't 4mm full length.
Not only was it tiny-wee but could we find it in the field guide, it's so distinctive we were sure it must be new to science! Honest!! We got a name though, what for it it's a fair few letter long - Phyllonorycter geniculella, an inhabitant of Sycamores, one of which barely 25 feet from the trap location! Hardly new to science, it is described on the excellent UK Moths as common!
The Ermine moths are white with black spots, as in dead Stoats worn by 'royalty' (each black spot on their robe is a dead Stoat's tail - disgusting!) but this one is silvery grey and we're not too sure which one it is, possibly Orchard Erminie, Yponomeuta padella but they are a notoriously difficult group to identify even with dissection!
55 moths of 27 species - easily our best catch of the year.
There were a couple of caddisflies in there too.
This one is probably a Caddis but could be a moth...
Might have to trouble those clever iSpotters later.
This arvo we hit Chat Alley for a couple of hours to watch the tide up in the hope of finding more Bottlenose Dolphins. There weren't any but blubber was represented by three Grey Seals
Birds were few and far between apart from a decent flock of Common Scoters making their way north behind some 'weather'. Two Whimbrels passed southwards well out to sea followed by a single almost overhead and then two more we heard calling and called back to making them circle over us a couple of times - love it when that happens. The star of the session was  fly-by adult Mediterranean Gull at nose height, quality unexpected bird, well happy.
Where to next? Back at work tomorrow with another gang of out-of-town youngsters eager to learn about our brilliant beach - will they be able top the Burnley crew's find yesterday?
In the meantime let us know what's ridiculously well patterned despite its tiny size in your outback.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Summat's a foot and it ain't twelve inches

The Safari wasn't able to get out onto Patch 2 early this morning, not that we would have wanted to as the rain was quite thunderously heavy and being blown almost horizontal by a stiff breeze. It really didn't look good for our school group later in the morning. They were coming from east Lancashire and we watched a thunderstorm track up from the south, would their paths cross???
Fortunately they didn't and the earlier rain had cleared not long before the bus drew up on the car park.
Twenty nine youngsters were disembarked, toileted and wellied up within a few minutes and ready tto get out on to the beach. A couple of them had never been on a beach before.
With the safety talk and equipment demos done off they went exploring. It wasn't long before all the usual shells were popped in to the trays and buckets along with a few small Sand Gobies and enough Brown Shrimps to make a substantial pie out of.
Then one young lad said look at this one, OK we thought not another Rayed Trough Shell as we searched for a Necklace Shell to tell them about its grizzly predatory behaviour. But no this was something really special,  a real rare beaut, so much so that our eyes just about popped out of ttheir sockets when he unfurled his fingers to reveal his booty - only a Pelican's Foot shell, and according to the NBN the fifth recorded along the full length of our coast and the first from our section of beach.
Needless to say, the young lad, the rest of his chums and us were well chuffed. 
In the afternoon they had a pond dipping and mini-beast safari but it was a bit too windy for most of the inverts to be out and about although sharp eyes spotted the first second brood Common Blue butterfly and a Red Admiral flew through really really fast with the wind up its backside.
That's the beauty of the natural world you just never know what's round the corner but if you don't look you certainly won't see!
Where to next? we're umming and ahhing about putting the mothy out - will the thunderstorms hold off until late enough tomorrow morning for us to empty it or will we wake up to find the electrics shorted out and the trap full of water??? Could well be a wet one tomorrow
In the meantime let us know whose beady eyes spotted the treasure in your outback.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Ooh it's hot hot hot

The Safari has had the most enjoyable day lazing around Base Camp doing not a lot in particular in the sun today.
The day started shortly after 06.00 with the emptying of the moth trap, not a bad haul lurked therein, double figure Dark Arches was good but just two Large Yellow Underwings was a relief. Four Marbled Beauties easily beat a Heart & Dart and a Rustic/Uncertain in the colour stakes. A fresh Dot contrasted with an incredibly worn - almost to the point of unidentifyablity - Bright Line Brown Eye. A green stripy thing in the bottom of one of the egg boxes had us guessing and turned out to be our first ever garden July Highflyer - nice one! Micros were represented by the very small Blastobasis adustella and the almost big enough to be a Macro Phlyctaenia coronata.
The feeders were lively and provided much entertainment throughout the morning, jsut the usual, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Great Tit and Blue Tits visiting until we heard the unmistakable chirruping of a House Sparrow.
Four of the 10 Dark Arches
Digiphonescoped Great Tit - hand held phone & swinging feeder
It didn't venture on to the feeders but stayed deep in the shrubbery, we later saw it feeding a recently fledged youngster on the top of the pergola so not coming in for seeds from the feeder but inverts from the foliage, we must be reaching a stage of maturity that they like which is excellent news.
No Sparrowhawks to cause consternation today but this Magpie, looking stunning in the morning light, had the smaller birds calling out in alarm.
More ruckus was heard overhead, this time  from the local Herring Gulls, and we looked for a raptor but unstead found a family of four Herring Gulls ma n da getting all anxious and emotional about their two babies first flight.
As the temperature climbed Swifts sliced their way through the azure blue and twittering Swallows jinked around above the rooftops. Mid morning is a quiet time for Human activity and we just sat for ages doing nothing but enjoying the bird sounds and hum and buzz of the insects around Wifey's flower tubs.
A large insect moving quickly caught our eye, a dragonfly! Leaping up and grabbing the camera we dashed over to the pond, a teneral Common Darter - great stuff, alas no picture it settled in a 'bad' place where we couldn't get at it without casting a shadow with the inevitable consequence - off over the garage it went never to be seen again - not good! But hey any dragonfly at Base Camp is good - you don't HAVE to get a pic every time.
Early afternoon a bre was being made in the kitchen when a tiny moth was seen on the window sill behind the kettle. A pot was grabbed and the moth chivvied inside to be left until saifd brew was drunk. 
Hmmm, this one looks interesting we thought - not seen one quite like that before. Turned out to be a moth lifer, Pseudargyrotoza conwagana. And what a little (little being the operative word) it was.

After that excitement we took Frank to the cliffs to watch the riding tide for the recent Bottlenose Dolphins. No joy just a couple of Gannets and a few smallish flock of Common Scoters were out there. No blubber at all not even any Grey Seals today. After the best part of a couple of hours it got too hot for Frank so we called it a day (was hot too we burnt our ar*e on the seat when we first sat down!) and returned to sitting in the garden back at Base Camp.
Our Extreme Photographer came round to drop off some firewood and bat box wood and show off his snazzy new van - yes he's sold his very tasty Defender due to taking up a real paid job down in South Wales shortly - hopefully he'll be our roving reporter from 'abroad' and send us some crackin wildlife shots for you to enjoy once he's got settled in down there.
We moved the car around after wood was stashed and burnt the soles of our feet on the road - ouch that tarmac was hot hot hot!!! After all the decent weather we'd have thought our feet were getting hardened off - hate shoes, if it wasn't for broken glass and dog sh*te and a bit of winter weather (we have taken Frank out up the hill in frosty/snowy weather barefoot a few times) we would seriously consider not wearing them - but we hadn't reckoned on scorchio!!! Like we said ouch ouch ouch!
Anyway that wasn't the end of it while we were hopping about the first pair of Chaffinches we've seen for a good few weeks flew past - autumn is a coming.
All in all a quality day off work in glorious blistering sunshine - can't be bad can it?
Must check the rapidly going over Buddleia flowers for moths this evening - not a single butterfly in the garden all day - where are they???
Where to next? Back tor the grindstone and a visit group of school children who want to learn all about our wonderful marine wildlife - on with the wellies (don't want to stand on any glass, Weaver fish or Jellyfish do we?) and off to the beach we go tomorrow.
In the meantime let us know who's sneaking around in the shrubbery in your outback